Colombia Table of Contents
The Colombian Air Force (Fuerza Aérea Colombiana--FAC) had some 6,700 personnel in 1988, including approximately 1,900 conscripts, about 8 percent of the country's military forces. Members of the air force reserve were estimated at approximately 1,900. In 1988 the commanding general of the FAC was General Alfonso Amaya Maldonado. He was assisted by an air force chief of staff, an office of air operations, and an inspector general. Headquartered in Bogotá, the service consisted of three combat air commands, one tactical air support command, one military air transport command, and one training command.
The principal units assigned to the FAC's commands included two fighter squadrons, three squadrons dedicated to counterinsurgency missions (including a squadron of helicopters under the tactical air support command), a reconnaissance squadron, and a transport squadron. The two fighter squadrons were assigned to the First Air Combat Command, with headquarters at the country's principal air base, the Germán Olano Military Air Base at Palanquero in Cundinmarca Department. These squadrons were composed exclusively of the fifteen Mirage 5 jet fighters that Colombia had acquired from France during the early 1970s following United States refusal to supply Colombia with advanced fighter aircraft. The FAC relied on the Skyguard air defense system, which was installed at three sites and equipped with some 240 AIM-7F Sparrow missiles. The air force also reportedly had an undetermined number of R-530 antiaircraft missiles. In addition to the base at Palanquero, Colombia's major air bases included the FAC's facility at the El Dorado International Airport at Bogotá, the Luis Gómez Niño Military Air Base at Apiay, the Ernesto Cortissoz Military Air Base at Barranquilla, and the Marco Fidel Suárez Military Air Base at Cali.
The counterinsurgency units were composed of fifteen aging AT-33 and two RT-33 ground attack aircraft and eighteen A-37 Cessna Dragonfly light attack aircraft, most of which were acquired in 1980. Two of the counterinsurgency units made up the Second Air Combat Command and the Third Air Combat Command. The helicopter squadron consisted of ten Hughes 500M OH-6A Cayuse and six Hughes 500-MG Defenders. The reconnaissance squadron was equipped with three RT-33 aircraft and seven Hughes 300C and eight Hughes 500C helicopters. Aircraft assigned to military air transport included a squadron composed of C-130s, a C-54, C-47s, HS-748s, F-28s, DHC-2s, IAI-201s, and PC-6s. The helicopter squadron was equipped with seventeen Bell UH-1B/Hs, most of which were purchased during the early 1980s, and eleven Bell 205 A-1s. The training command was equipped primarily with twenty-one Cessna T-41D and twenty-one T-34A/B aircraft; its helicopters included eight Bell 47s, seven Hughes 300Cs, and fourteen Hughes 500Cs.
In 1984 the FAC acquired an additional fifteen A-37s. The A-37s reportedly were intended to reinforce the country's coastal surveillance capabilities and were to be used in patrolling the San Andrés and Providencia archipelago. Colombia's military industry manufactured a number of the FAC's smaller aircraft, many of which reportedly were employed in counterinsurgency.
A highlight of the FAC's efforts at modernizing its force came with the announcement in early 1988 of its plans to purchase thirteen C-7 Kfir fighters from Israel. In part, FAC concerns over its capabilities were spurred by Venezuela's acquisition of some two dozen United States-built F-16 fighters in the mid-1980s. The contract for the Kfirs, valued at about US$200 million, included a supply of spare parts and pilot training in addition to the aircraft.
Data as of December 1988